How To Make A Parafoil Kite

Step-by-Step - Page 1 of 3

The MBK Parafoil

Learn how to make a Parafoil kite with these easy-to-follow instructions. Fully illustrated with close-up photos, every step of the way.

The MBK Parafoil kite in flight.MBK Parafoil
The MBK Parafoil kite in flight.MBK Parafoil

These instructions will take you step-by-step through making a 120cm (4 ft) tall Parafoil kite. This 4-cell kite performs best in gentle to moderate wind speeds. That's 12 to 28kph or 8 to 18mph. Even in light winds, this kite will hang in the air, although at low line angles. In fresh winds, it pulls firmly for it's size, so small kids should only fly it while supervised!

Some of the lines are longer than the standard 30cm (12”) of most rulers. So, a handy trick is to stretch out a length of flying line, weigh it down at each end, and then make several dots beside it – less than a ruler length apart. The dots can then be joined by using your ruler. With care, you will end up with a perfectly straight long ruled line every time.

The MBK Parafoil kite is inspired by similar-looking retail kites, some of which are quite large and expensive. However, this tape and plastic version works in exactly the same way and has been tested up to 200 feet off the ground.


Materials for this kite...

The kite described here will do well with just about any fairly robust plastic sheet. For example, heavy-duty painter's drop-sheet or drop-cloth plastic. That would be around 4mil thickness for those buying plastic sheet in the US. My kite also used council bin liner plastic. Somewhat thicker and stronger than rubbish bin (trash can) liners.

Ordinary clear sticky tape in a dispenser is good for tacking seams together before laying down 5cm (2”) clear packing tape for strength and stiffness. Other edges just require sticky tape alone. I used the 1.8cm (3/4”) wide variety.

These instructions illustrate a Parafoil made with 50 pound (strength) Dacron bridle lines. This type of line is readily available from eBay and Amazon online stores.


Upper And Lower Surfaces

When this kite flies, one surface of the sail faces the sky – the Upper Surface. The other surface is easily visible from the ground – the Lower Surface. In between the two surfaces are vertical panels I will refer to as Dividers.




Consider using my e-book Making Soft Kites to try any of the 5 spar-less designs in there. Hi-res, close-up photos help you through.



How To Make A Parafoil Kite...
Upper Surface And Side Keels

Measuring Upper Surface And Side Keels

The Parafoil kite - dots measured and marked.Dots measured and marked
  • Place your plastic sheeting on the floor. Fold it in half from left to right and run a sharp, straight crease down the left hand side.
  • Starting from near the top-left corner, measure and mark dots on the plastic. Just follow the arrows marked on the photo. Dots have been highlighted in yellow.

Judge the horizontal directions by eye. If you're careful, there's no need for a T-square since the sail ends up symmetrical anyway.



Completing Dots For Upper Surface And Side Keels

Half the dots are already marked, so now you mark in the remaining ones. Almost invisible in the photo below, but they are all there, small and in black...

The Parafoil kite - plastic flipped, dots traced.Plastic flipped, dots traced
  • Flip all the plastic over. Smooth out the 2 layers of plastic, double-checking that the vertical crease stays in place. The crease is now on the right in the photo up there.
  • Make dots over all the dots showing through the 2 layers of plastic. Keep checking that nothing has slipped!

Hint: If it's too hard to see through the plastic, just lay it up against a sun-lit window to mark in the dots.



Drawing Lines For Upper Surface And Side Keels

The Parafoil kite - all lines marked.All lines marked
  • Open out the sheet of plastic and lay it flat.
  • Connect the dots with marked lines as shown in the photo. Some lines are 'panel outlines' while others are 'internal guide lines'. The central crease is also drawn over. 

Note: The photo has been edited to make the lines darker and easier to see.



Taping Upper Surface And Side Keels

The Parafoil kite - where to put sticky tape edging.Where to put sticky tape edging
  • Lay down 1.8cm (3/4”) sticky tape where indicated by yellow rectangles in the photo above. Note that most of the tape is stuck inside the outline.


Cutting Upper Surface And Side Keels

The Parafoil kite - upper surface sheet cut.Upper surface sheet cut
  • Take your scissors and cut all around the outside of the shape, along the black lines. Follow those wedge-shaped cut-outs as well.
  • When you are finished, the plastic should look like the photo up there. Internal guide lines are still intact, although a little hard to see in the photo.    



Closing Upper Surface Cut-outs

The Parafoil kite - a cut-out closed and taped up.A cut-out closed and taped up
  • Ensure the plastic is laying with all the edging tape facing away from the floor. The photo on the left shows where some 5cm (2”) packing tape is placed over a guide-line. Notice how the cut-out needs to close up in two stages...
  • Bring the first set of edges together and hold with small bits of sticky tape.
  • When satisfied that it lines up nicely, lay 5cm (2”) packing tape down all the first join. See the photo in the middle.
  • In the same way, tape the second set of edges. See the photo on the right.
  • Move over to the other side of the plastic and do all the above again, on the other cut-out.


Making The Central Keel

Measuring And Drawing The Central Keel

I have used orange plastic for this keel. Contrasting colors make it easier to see what is going on in later stages of construction...

The Parafoil kite - dots measured, marked and connected.Dots measured, marked and connected
  • Starting from near the top-left corner, measure and mark dots on the plastic. Follow the arrows marked on the photo on the left. The dots are highlighted in yellow.
  • Connect the dots with marked lines as shown in the photo on the right.



Taping And Cutting The Central Keel

The Parafoil kite - central keel taped and cut out.Central keel taped and cut out
  • Lay down sticky tape as indicated by the yellow rectangles in the photo on the left.
  • Flip the plastic over, and lay down more sticky tape, so the taping is the same on both sides. I flipped it back again, before cutting...
  • Cut all around the shape of the keel. See the photo on the right.


Making Lower Surface And Dividers

Measuring Lower Surface And Dividers

Start with a fresh sheet of plastic. This is similar to the very first step – 'Measuring Upper Surface And Side Keels'. I used a lighter shade of blue plastic for the lower surface...

The Parafoil kite - dots measured and marked.Dots measured and marked
  • Place your plastic sheeting on the floor. Fold it in half from left to right and run a sharp, straight crease down the left hand side.
  • Starting from near the top-left corner, measure and mark dots on the plastic. Just follow the arrows marked on the photo. I've high-lighted the dots in yellow so they are easier to see in the photo.


Completing Dots For Lower Surface And Dividers

Half the dots are already marked, so now you mark in the remaining ones. They haven't been highlighted this time, but they are all there, small and in black...

The Parafoil kite - plastic flipped, dots traced.Plastic flipped, dots traced
  • Flip all the plastic over. Smooth out the 2 layers of plastic, double-checking that the vertical crease stays in place.
  • Make dots over all the dots showing through the 2 layers of plastic. Keep checking that nothing has slipped!



Drawing Lines For Lower Surface And Dividers

The Parafoil kite - lower Surface lines drawn.Lower Surface lines drawn
  • Open out the sheet of plastic and lay it flat.
  • Connect the dots with marked lines as shown in the photo. Some lines are 'panel outlines' while others are 'internal guide lines'.


Taping Lower Surface And Dividers

The Parafoil kite - where to put the sticky tape.Where to put the sticky tape
  • Lay down sticky tape where indicated by yellow rectangles in the photo above.


Cutting Lower Surface And Dividers

The Parafoil kite - pieces cut, ready to assemble.Pieces cut, ready to assemble
  • Take your scissors and cut all around the outside of the shape, along the lines.
  • Cut along the vertical center-line, so the shape separates into left and right pieces.
  • Cut off the rectangles at far left and far right. When you are finished, the panels should look like the photo up there, with some internal guide lines showing. See if you can cut along the lines better than I did!


Assembling The Sail

Attaching The Central Keel - a)

The Parafoil kite - an edge taped to the center-line of the Upper Surface plastic.An edge taped to the center-line of the Upper Surface plastic
  • Lay down the Upper Surface plastic with the tape edging facing up.
  • Referring to the photo on the left, line up the central keel with the center-line of the Upper Surface plastic, and run 5cm (2”) packing tape the full length of the join. See the yellow rectangle. Trim off any excess tape with scissors.
  • Flip the keel over, as in the closer-up photo on the right, and fold the join down as flat as possible. Run packing tape down the join as before.


Attaching The Central Keel – b)

The Parafoil kite - next edge of keel taped to center-line of Upper Surface plastic.Next edge of keel taped to center-line of Upper Surface plastic
  • After taping in the previous step, continue by holding the next keel edge in place with 1 or 2 small pieces of sticky tape. Along the black line, as before.
  • When satisfied that it looks good, run 5cm (2”) packing tape along the join. As illustrated by the yellow rectangle in the photo on the left.
  • Now flip the keel over, flatten out the join and run packing tape along it. As in the more close-up photo on the right.


Attaching The Central Keel – c)

The Parafoil kite - completed taping of keel to center-line of Upper Surface plastic.Completed taping of keel to center-line of Upper Surface plastic
  • After taping in the previous step, continue by holding the last keel edge in place with 2 or 3 small pieces of sticky tape. Along the black line, as before.
  • When satisfied that it looks good, run 5cm (2”) packing tape along the join. As illustrated by the yellow rectangle in the photo on the left.
  • Now flip the keel over, flatten out the join and run packing tape along it. As in the more close-up photo on the right.



Consider using my e-book Making Soft Kites to try any of the 5 spar-less designs in there. Hi-res, close-up photos help you through.


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